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French Food: Five Healthy Foods To Steal From the French

French dinner may 09 042

French Health Food Isn’t Just for the French

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I live and write in the South of France. There is a lot to like in France, especially when it comes to food. We have lived here in Pau for the last eleven years and I can honestly say that even if I haven’t lost my Americanism in my heart, the French food is perfectly integrated into our diet.

How to (legally) steal from the French

The French do something right. It is called food and the art of eating. Articles here on the blog (feel free to visit and read) have a lot of French food and French eating culture ‘stolen’ from La France. And this is a positive thing, because the French have a good thing going with their food!

With a little adaption chez vous (at your house) you too can steal these healthy French food ideas. No one will mind, the French will be proud and you will be even more satisfied and healthier with your eating.

Five Healthy French Foods (and how to steal them for your diet)

  • French yogurt
  • Vinaigrette
  • Red Wine
  • Vegetable Soup
  • Infusion or Herbal Tea

Real French yogurt: unsweetened, full of flavor and packed with fat

So how do the French enjoy their yogurt? At least once a day typically after a meal. The old-fashioned way is to enjoy a yogurt nature with some homemade sweetener added, like jam. In its natural form, yogurt is not low-fat or non-fat, so the best real way to enjoy yogurt is with the creamy (fat) taste. Personally, I like to eat my French yogurt with breakfast because the fat in it (see below) keeps my stomach and hunger away.

But things are changing even in France and the real yogurt is sitting next to the over processed yogurts in the grocery store. (And you thought the French cheese aisle would be huge, right? The French yogurt aisle is even bigger. These two sides filled with a variety of types and flavors of French yogurt.)

yogurt aisle at French grocery store

And how to look for this real yogurt where you live? First, don’t be scared of eating fat (it can keep your weight in control), read more on that here. It is the large amounts of sugar often found in American (and some French) yogurt that you need to keep away from.

My advice:

  1. buy yogurt that is the least processed possible.
  2. buy non sweetened and sweeten your yogurt (if needed) yourself with maple syrup or honey.
  3. do not buy fat-free yogurt nor artificial sweetened yogurt.
  4. look on yogurt labels and compare two yogurt, make sure your yogurt has some fats in it (under fat grams).
  5. look for yogurt that contain active cultures like lactobacillus.
  6. why not make your own yogurt.

One brand that I particularly like is Stonyfield. Do you know it? You can read about this special yogurt in this cookbook:

For more information on the cultural variety and taste of French yogurt you can read here.

Vinaigrette: three oils to one vinegar is better than the ‘fake’ stuff

Vinaigrette, as you may envision it, is not the store-bought plastic bottle filled with who knows what. French vinaigrette is the mix of 3/1 oil to vinegar served on green salads and other salads (like shredded carrot salad) and cooked vegetables. Some French families make their vinaigrette up in a special glass bottle and keep it on the table for serving on foods. Some make it on the spot. And some just keep oil and vinegar on the table in pretty glass bottles for each person to serve themselves.

Whatever way pleases you, this is a real easy way to get essential fatty acids, vegetable fats and vinegar into your diet. Trust me, this habit of at least one salad a day with homemade vinaigrette is an excellent way towards good health.

If you are not sure how to do it, please read these articles on mixing your own vinaigrette and why it is important:

Healthy vinaigrette should be high in fat 

How to mix the oils in your next vinaigrette

Red wine: full of tannins, healthy antioxidants and a big gulf of zen

Do I have to write much here? (LOL) I will tell you again, red wine is good for your health, so drink up (in moderation!)

Although in the last few years the French have consumed less wine, this important French commodity is still important to many French lifestyles. The healthiest wine in the world is produced in Madiran, close to where I live. The French enjoy a glass with their main meals and that is a healthy habit.

My advice:

  1. if you don’t drink wine, do not start just for health reasons.
  2. red wine is a healthiest choice, but white and rosé wine have health benefits too.
  3. drinking wine with a meal evokes a real non stress and slower meal-this in itself is a big good health plus.

Vegetable soup: a nightly late ritual for many (including French kids)

The French enjoy their main meal at lunch and a light and late supper. This supper is eaten around 8 pm and is often non meat based.

The French favorite supper? Vegetable soup.

And this is how the kids get their vegetables too. Because the vegetable soup isn’t just for the adults.

The French make large pots of vegetable soup every other day and reheat it to serve (just about) every night for dinner. Most of the time the soup is mixed down with a hand blender so the variety of vegetables are infused together.

My advice: if you cannot eat a later supper, you could consider a lighter dinner. A bowl of hot French vegetable soup with salad is a great weight control technique. Or you can include this vegetable soup for the first course (or as part of the main meal) to help you and your family get their vegetable quotient.

Here is a typical French vegetable soup recipe for you to start this habit tonight, “Soupe de Legumes.”

Infusion or herbal teas: the right way to end the day

Finally, it is the end of a long day. What do the French do after their late dinner or before going to sleep?

Make an infusion or as the French call it, Une Tisane.
Le Marché de l'Herboriste La Tisane

A tisane is leaves from plants or herbs that are placed in hot water and allowed to be infused. You must let the tea infuse for a least 5 minutes. My favorite infusion is verveine. (Here is my favorite). Provence Epice – Loose Verbena (Verveine), 1.76oz
What is yours?

My advice: drink an herbal tea or infusion before you sleep. Or you can use herbal teas and tisane as a way to help in many ways: chamomile for stomach upset or nettles for circulation. What is your favorite tea and why?

What am I missing from this list? Let me know your favorite French health food and why.
If you are interested in knowing more about the French culture and food you can subscribe to BrightonYourHealth’s newsletter. By joining, you will receive your 13 page E-report (quite popular!) on how to eat like the French towards good health.
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Bon Appetit!


Warmly, Mary

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2 Responses to French Food: Five Healthy Foods To Steal From the French

  1. Charlotte September 19, 2013 at 12:55 #

    Hi Mary,

    I am French and I grew up with having soup for dinner nearly every evening in winter. As a kid I remember all kids used to say: oh no soup! but my Mum use to say that is to be strong and to grow ahah I am 5 foot.
    Food and wine is one of my passions and with the cold weather arriving I have been looking for soup recipes to try , i am going to try a different one every week and will be posting it on my blog!
    Your website called my attention, I thought you might be interested in my blog! it is very new though I only started a month ago I am still discovering how to create a blog.

    Hope you like it though

    Thank you

    Charlotte recently posted..Roast Chicken tonight it is!

    • mbrighton September 21, 2013 at 11:39 #

      Charlotte! Will definetly check out your article and I hope others will too. Would love your feedback as an ‘authentic’ French person. All of what I write comes from my personal experiences living in France and my professional background as a nutritionist. I am not French but embraces much of the food culture and I didn’t grow up in France, so some of the articles I write might not be what you see or have experienced.
      Bon continuation et plein de reussite!
      Warmly, Mary

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